Inside Mad Cool Festival 2022: Alt Rock, Tapas, and a New Beginning?

Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán
Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán
Madrid’s Mad Cool Festival 2022 glimmers in a Spanish dreamscape with flawless execution, a victory garden of musical good vibes and creative fan experiences…
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Most of us identify with several levels of tired. There’s work tired, stress tired, parenting tired… you get the picture. At this moment, I am at a level of tired that a select cross section of the population can identify with. They seek it out, recover from it and seek it out again. Right now, I am “music festival tired.”

It’s Saturday night and I’m coming off a four-day stint at Mad Cool Festival 2022 in Madrid, one of the premier music festivals Europe has to offer. It’s been four days and nights of racing from stage to stage in the arid Spanish heat, shooting pictures, eating exotic cuisines and just soaking in as much of this unique festival as possible before heading back to the states tomorrow.

I’m taking a lot away from my experience here, but most of all, the desire to return next year. That said, this was my take.

Mad Cool Festival Grounds © Jaime Erice Torán
Mad Cool Festival Grounds © Jaime Erice Torán



LINEUP

A thoughtful collective of artists this diverse does not come together often or at the very least, often enough. Mega heavy hitters like Metallica, Florence & The Machine and Jack White anchor the lineup, but are beautifully juxtaposed by burgeoning artists like The Sherlocks.

A personal standout over the weekend were Canadian rockers Mother Mother, who checked all the boxes needed for a good rock show. Enigmatic front man Ryan Guldemond takes the stage with a brooding energy and my only thought was. “It’s his festival now.”

The strategic peppering of regional acts on festival lineups is nothing new, but Mad Cool’s lineup really takes an advanced approach to this. Colorful artists like Jimena Amarillo and ORSLOK are so representative of the passion that Spanish musicians share regardless of genre. I found myself captivated and really examining their lyrics, even restricted by my marginal Español, which speaks to their abilities to appeal to a world stage.

The EDM facet to Mad Cool could be found in its own dedicated space, an impressive dome stage that pulsated with lights and sound called “The Loop”. Strategically placed right inside the main gate, it drew you in from the get-go, with names like Flume, Floating Points and Octo Octo.

Offering a throwback artist ensures the rounding out of any lineup and landing iconic alt band Pixies more than met that need. The real indicator of their influence was watching a completely captivated and just plain active audience of non-English-speaking fans AND young fans alike singing every word right back at the band and deservedly so.

Florence + The Machine @ Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán
Florence + The Machine @ Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán



Mother Mother @ Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán
Mother Mother @ Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán

GASTRONOMY

I’d like to be able to say that in the long days working at Mad Cool, the only sustenance I had was the standard festival or large event fare of pizza, burgers, and similar such dreck. I’d like to say that but I can’t.

The fact is, Mad Cool assembled a cuisine lineup that ran parallel with the music lineup and was as impressive as I’ve seen at any festival in all my years. Spain has a higher standard for food quality, with an emphasis on fresher, less processed ingredients in restaurants and supermarkets.

The gastronomy area at Mad Cool is as impressive a layout any festival has with over different 50 booths and food trucks creating a perimeter containing, you guessed it, more food trucks. Seating was not scarce, but still, many opt to just sit on the turf surface that Mad Cool puts down (one of my favorite features of any festival).

It’s a staggering selection of international dishes with Asian-inspired, Italian, and of course Spanish cuisines just to name a few. Tapas, skewers, pita options, gluten-free options, rice dishes, stir fry dishes…. you name it, they had it.

If you stood near any food truck at Mad Cool for even a few moments, you would hear the standard protocol for ordering food by non-Spanish speakers:

“What’s that? I don’t even care, that looks so good. I’ll have that.”

Imagine Dragons @ Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán
Imagine Dragons @ Mad Cool Festival © Jaime Erice Torán



VENUE

Getting fans to the doorstep of a non-camping festival can be more problematic, but Madrid does have a world class metro system, giving it a good head start. Now at almost a mile, the metro station for the festival is a pretty good hike to the main entrance, but does keep the flow of people lighter and when you do arrive at the station the wait is short, and the trains are generally not crowded.

I did attempt a taxi ride home one night, but I will say that’s the one opportunity area at an almost two hour wait (or so I’m told; I abandoned the campaign at 15 minutes).

If you want the creme de la creme method of transport for Mad Cool, it is undoubtedly Uber. The company has a very large brand presence at their dedicated pick up/drop off space, is easy to find and runs like a NASCAR pit crew.



SUMMARY

It goes without saying that my experience at Mad Cool as a fan and a journalist was nothing short of amazing, albeit bittersweet. With the recent news that festival organizers are planning a change of venue for 2023 to the southern Madrid district of Villaverde, I have some feelings of trepidation making my 2023 plans.

I think it speaks highly of the festival that after only attending once I have this sense of loyalty and allegiance to the current arrangement. But, at the same time I can’t help feeling that if they’ve been able to create this Disney-caliber level of magic here, they can do it anywhere.

Buen trabajo, Mad Cool!

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